Just two days after launching a major new product, Home, Facebook has made a major public effort to quell concerns that the uber-app is a net with which to scoop up more data about its users.
The company livestreamed an in-house interview with privacy head Erin Egan and followed it with a written FAQ about Home penned by Egan and her colleague Michael Richter and published on the company’s press page.
Several major news outlets, including CNN and the BBC, put privacy concerns about Home in the top lines of their coverage. Investor Om Malik also said on GigaOm that the uber-app “erodes any idea of privacy.”
The critics charged that the app would run all the time, accessing the operating system’s location data and keeping tabs of users’ activities in other apps.
Not so, Facebook answered back Friday afternoon.
“Our goal is to avoid surprises,” Egan said in the livestream. When users are surprised they are less likely to share, she said.
The company assures users that they can turn Home off whenever they want. And just as with an ordinary Facebook app, they can turn off the app’s access to the phone’s location information.
Facebook also said that Home will not keep tabs of what users do in other apps.
“Home will only see how you interact with Home itself,” the FAQ said.
But Facebook will keep track of which apps users opt to put in the uber-apps launcher for other apps.
“Facebook maintains a list of the apps that you have in the Home app launcher. We store this information in identifiable form for 90 days and use it to provide the service and improve how it works,” Richter and Egan wrote.
Home also detects which apps generate notifications, since those pass through the quasi-operating system.
“It’s just a new way to engage with the Facebook app on your phone, but it doesn’t change the controls you have available from a privacy perspective and it doesn’t change any of the selections you’ve made in terms of audience, you know, who can see your stuff,” Egan said.